Visual search with emotional faces

Ong, Alicia (2012). Visual search with emotional faces Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ong, Alicia
Thesis Title Visual search with emotional faces
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-10-10
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Stefanie Becker
Total pages 86
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary It has been proposed that threatening stimuli can automatically attract attention and are detected faster; conferring evolutionary advantages for an organism’s well-being and survival (Becker, Horstmann, & Remington, 2011). In line with the threat hypothesis, studies demonstrated that angry faces are detected faster among happy faces (Belopolsky, Devue & Theeuwes, 2011; Lipp, Price, & Tellegan, 2009). However, other studies demonstrated the opposite (Becker et al., 2011; Calvo & Nummenmaa, 2008). Hence, some researchers proposed that instead of emotional expressions, perceptual saliency of faces determines detection speed as visible teeth may render faces salient. A potential explanation of previous discrepant results is that the visibility of teeth was not controlled in previous studies, as studies reporting a happy-face advantage often pitted open-mouth happy faces against closed-mouth angry faces and vice versa. The current study compared the effects of teeth visibility and emotional expression in a visual search task where participants (N=24) searched for an emotional target face among neutral distracters; and a second task (N=24) where participants conducted the same search with the addition of an emotional distracter. To explore effects of other perceptual factors on search performance, participants rated emotional faces for (1) their similarity to same emotion faces; (2) their dissimilarity to the neutral distracter faces. In line with the perceptual saliency hypothesis, faces that were detected faster were rated as more dissimilar from non-targets. Participants’ eye movements were used to measure the time-course of attention shifts to the target and distracters. The results showed that the visibility of teeth determined attention shifts and eye movements more strongly than emotional expression: More first eye movements were made to open-mouth faces than closed-mouth faces. In line with the perceptual account, results showed that visible teeth can attract attention independent of the emotion and threat potential of the faces.
Keyword Visual search
Emotional faces

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Created: Thu, 07 Mar 2013, 13:59:32 EST by Mrs Ann Lee on behalf of School of Psychology